How Location Data has helped Transform Out-of-Home Advertising

November 18th, 2020 | Edith Gagné, Vice President, Programmatic Sales Operations, Broadsign

close up of tablet with map on screen being held by a woman’s hands outdoors on a street at nightOut-of-home (OOH) advertising has undergone drastic transformation in recent years. The pairing of OOH with location data unlocked powerful tools that are contributing to the evolution and enrichment of the channel, particularly when it comes to granular audience targeting and measurement capabilities.

Tools Unlocked with Location Data

To explore how location data is being paired with OOH in Canada today, I caught up with COMMB’s newly appointed president, Amanda Dorenberg and asked her how she feels location data has changed the OOH landscape. She writes:

The OOH industry is in the transcendence of change currently, and mobile location data is at the core of this. It looks to leverage the power of big-data to bridge the gap between the offline and the online world and level the playing field on the buy-side with comparable products, insights and services they’re accustomed to with other media formats.

It’s now easier than ever to plan, buy and measure OOH on an audience basis, and to understand in real time to what degree screens over-index in a target segment. This is enabled by screen location being shared with mobile data providers who collect information about the devices seen in the vicinity of the screen, and then pass it back to the buying platforms in anonymized, aggregated form. This in turn enables marketers to target screens that reach an audience that has recently visited a specific point of interest, or that fall into a certain persona, and also to measure outcomes, such as understanding to what degree audiences exposed to OOH ads took a subsequent action or noticed the ad or downloaded an app.

Sample report from Campsight shows segmentation by age, gender, income, interest/activity, lifestage and intent
Sample demographic reporting during an OOH campaign delivery from the Campsite DSP

Location Data Helps Foster Confidence Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Location data has become even more vitally important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows media owners to tap into current traffic levels and adjust impression counts accordingly. In the Canadian landscape, Pattison has led the charge by making their data on movement patterns accessible to the industry via their partnership with Pelmorex and more recently with a new study with Environics. I reached out to the team at Pattison to ask them about how access to mobile location data has affected their client offering. Susanna Loo, Director of Research, Data & Analytics, had this to say:

The rapid change of the COVID situation makes the OOH suppliers rely on mobile location data more than ever. Mobile location data offers data by geographical location, by OOH property, by hour, minute etc. It allows us to gauge the current traffic/people movement and to identify the % of volume compared to pre-COVID. We also update impressions in the programmatic space to reflect the changes found.

The current data shows that despite various lockdown measures people are still leaving their homes and circulating around the city, and this is up by 28% since April. When paired with the flexibility offered up by programmatic platforms to start and stop campaigns without restriction, this opens up an opportunity to engage with consumers and raise brand awareness with low risk and minimal effort, knowing that audience impressions being delivered actually reflect current reality.

One Caveat: It’s Technology, Not Magic

While location data has brought a wealth of new insights and capabilities, with that also comes a lot of learning; and based on my experience and input from other leaders in the space, here are a few common misconceptions worth clarifying:

  1. Levels of accuracy and precision are not all equal. Accuracy refers to the extent to which you hit the right audience. How users are categorized as having certain interests or intents can vary. Precision is determined by a lot of things but within the context of OOH advertising, the most important is sample cadence. Location data isn’t live-streamed – this can range from a few minutes apart to a few hours. Both are important questions to ask data providers.
  2. Mobile location data captures a sample of devices, not 100% of the population, and by extension, the number of devices captured does not equal circulation or impression numbers.
  3. Ad serving on an audience basis is not based on who’s standing in front of the screen at the moment the ad plays, but rather historical data on what audience segments are found in the highest concentration in front of certain screens.
  4. Most people on both the buy side and the sell side of this ecosystem are not experts in mobile location data, its possible applications and technical underpinnings, and are likely in some phase of learning. Therefore, there are no stupid questions.

What the Future Holds

OOH is one of the only traditional channels experiencing growth, and even in the current context with a global pandemic, Magna Global estimates OOH will recover more quickly than other media, by approximately 10% in 2021 vs all other media projected to recover at about 4%. On what will help drive that growth, Amanda tells me that transparency of data sources and standardization of processing methodologies are needed, and a focus on enhancing our medium’s ROI toolbox will help drive confidence and growth. She strives for a “robust digital transformation and a tech-first approach,” which, given her role, will certainly help shape the continued evolution of our industry.



About Edith Gagné
Edith Gagne, Vice President, Programmatic Sales Operations at Broadsign, and board member of IAB Canada, has led the Campsite buy and sell-side platforms since launch in 2016 and, since Campsite’s acquisition by Broadsign, now leads the overall media sales operations function. Edith works closely with publishers, brands, agencies and DSPs to facilitate programmatic transactions on the Broadsign and Campsite platforms and is a leading voice championing programmatic in the DOOH industry.